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While bashing Collins' wealth, McMurray fails to file financial disclosure form

WASHINGTON – Democratic congressional hopeful Nate McMurray hasn't been shy about bashing his opponent, Republican Rep. Chris Collins, as an out-of-touch millionaire.

But it's hard to know exactly what McMurray is worth – because he hasn't filed the personal financial disclosure statement he was supposed to file by May 15.

Collins, long one of the wealthiest members of Congress, filed his report on time, and it showed him to be worth between $38.92 million and $108.13 million.

But the public won't know how much or how little McMurray is worth until he files his personal financial disclosure form.

Asked on Friday about his failure to file, McMurray said it was an oversight and said he planned to file the form next week.

"I'm embarrassed that it was not done, but we'll get it done," he said.

McMurray said he was under the impression that a former campaign manager had taken care of the filing, and only recently discovered that it was not done. He said his campaign this week called the House Clerk's office and was told he should file as soon as possible, and that he would have to pay a $200 fine.

"It didn't seem like a big thing," said McMurray, a lawyer who serves as Grand Island town supervisor.

Good-government advocates, however, think the public needs to see how much candidates are worth and where they got their money.

"It's really important for politicians and elected officials to make these disclosures so that their constituents can hold them accountable," said Robert Galbraith, senior research associate for the Public Accountability Initiative in Buffalo. "Regardless of whether it's due to carelessness or something else, it's unfortunate that McMurray has not yet disclosed his financial interests as is required."

McMurray's failure to disclose his 2017 assets and income could give Collins a ready response to McMurray's persistent attempts to use Collins' wealth as a campaign issue.

"COLLINS: Born filthy rich, got richer buying and selling jobs, ethics violations, big money support, country club lifestyle," said a McMurray tweet on July 1.

"He has used his position to enrich himself," McMurray said of Collins in a Facebook post last week.

McMurray makes that charge in response to an Office of Congressional Ethics report issued last year, which said there was "a substantial reason to believe" that Collins violated federal law by touting the stock of an obscure Australian biotech firm based on inside information, while also possibly breaking House ethics rules by persuading National Institutes of Health officials to meet with a staffer from that company. That report prompted a House Ethics Committee investigation that is still pending.

While Collins resigned as a director of that Australian firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics, his financial disclosure report shows that he owned between $1 million and $5 million in stock in that company at the end of last year.

That didn't make Innate one of Collins' largest investments. A private businessman before entering politics, Collins, of Clarence, reported that one of his companies, ZeptoMetrix, is worth $25 million and $50 million. Another, Volland Electric, is worth $5 million and $25 million.

Collins' investments brought him anywhere from $1.54 million to $8.62 million in income last year. Because of the way Congress drew up the financial disclosure law, lawmakers and candidates only have to report their assets and income in wide ranges, not specific numbers.

While new candidates often ask for and get extensions for filing financial disclosure forms, it's rare for them to let the task fall through the cracks, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a national group that tracks campaign finance and lobbying.

"This is unusual," she said of McMurray's situation. "That's why candidates have staff – to take care of this sort of thing."

But Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the left-leaning Public Citizen's Congress Watch, said first-time candidates such as McMurray are more prone to such mistakes.

"As long as McMurray files promptly after being informed of his oversight, disclosure will be achieved and no further action is needed," said Holman, who was among several people to file complaints against Collins that prompted the Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into the congressman's investments.

Asked about McMurray's mistake, Collins' spokesman Bryan Piligra said: "Chris Collins is focused on doing what he's always done – talking to the constituents of his district, listening to their problems, and working with President Trump on their behalf to create jobs and keep our economy moving," Piligra said. "We'll let our opponent's record speak for itself."

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